How The Greatest Lie Has Become Our Most Cherished Truth
The lie will find you; it will come to you in our culture’s views of sexuality, psychology, education, entertainment, politics, and alas, even in the teaching of some churches. The question is: Will you believe it, or expose it for the hoax it is?
This is a lie we long to believe; it is a lie that we’ll skillfully adapt in a vain effort to meet our needs and enhance our egos. This lie is our greatest temptation and our culture’s most prized possession.
This worldwide lie is not going anywhere; we cannot hide from it—but we can recognize it, expose its dangers, and warn others that, if believed, it will lead them to their damnation. There is a reason why John said, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).
But what is the lie?
Well, it entered this world when the serpent made this promise to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). And when Adam and Eve sinned, the quest for godhood began: God was soon replaced by man. Self-worship began its destructive journey throughout the history of the world, and it’s most clearly defended in Western culture. Here in America, it is our religion. And this lie is wedded to political power in a way that is unique to history.
The tee-shirt says it all, “Just worship me, and we will get along fine.” And that self-worship has philosophical, psychological, and political justification. We have enshrined it in our national discourse.
This lie empowers people to say, “I am a boy at home, but in school, I identify as a girl.” Or, “I am a man having a baby!” And there is more, “Since I determine good from evil, although others may be racist or bigoted, I remain innocent.” Furthermore “I have the right to say that others don’t have worthy opinions—they have only phobias: homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia. But I am free from such evils. Don’t tell me what I should believe, ‘I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul…’”
The message of the lie is clear: You, not God, determine who you are and what you can or cannot do. Who you think you are trumps the realities around you. This lie is the rationale for every sexual deviation imaginable and has the inertia to propel us into a much sought after, but horrid, future.
Solzhenitsyn, the brave writer who exposed communism, said, “Today’s world has reached a stage that, if it had been described to preceding centuries, would have called forth the cry, ‘This is the Apocalypse!’”[i]
The Apocalypse has arrived, riding on the back of the exaltation of self to the exclusion of God. The serpent’s promise in Eden is closer to fulfillment than we could have imagined. Only we as Christians have a message that exposes the delusions of self-worship, the exaltation of the self, and the dethronement of God. If we don’t speak to this culture, no one else will.
Where “The Lie” Started: How A Falsehood Became A Cultural “Value”
It’s been said that if a lie is repeated often enough—and, we might add, if it is pushed by so-called experts, many people will come to believe it’s true. This is exactly what we are seeing today in our culture. But the lie we are being asked to believe has the mark of Satan on it—and we must resist it.
Q: Okay, how did we get here?
A: I can answer in ten words, a hundred words, or ten thousand words! How about 100 words?
Beginning with the philosopher Rousseau, the idea developed that our inner self defines who we are and what we can become. Our only hindrances are rules, laws, and traditions. If we can break out of these, we can experience true human flourishing.
These ideas were developed by Freud, who taught that no sexual urges should be suppressed; and when wedded with Karl Marx’s theories, sexual liberation is not just a psychological reality but a political cause that must be celebrated. Thus, the self has triumphed. We have made an idol of “the self.” But we must remember that idols always break the heart of their worshippers.
Q: What has this emphasis done to our young people?
A: We are raising a generation that is the hero of its own story; a generation of narcissists who see themselves as worthy of having online followers. Many make pithy pronouncements on social media about matters that they know nothing about but pontificate as if they know everything. We teach them the nonsense that they can be whatever they want to be and promote the idea that who they think they are trumps the reality of biology, anatomy, and common sense. They can be a boy at home and a girl at school—or whatever else they choose to be.
Q: Have these ideas come into the church?
A: You see it everywhere. It is the theology of Oprah who sees God within everyone; it is the theology of “name it, claim it” preachers who think we have the power to do miracles just by thinking the right thoughts. It is the theology of all New Age spirituality and is sometimes taught in Christian schools under the guise of “spiritual formation” and “self-actualization.”
Q: So what do we do about this?
A: We identify the lie, explain it, and warn others about it. And more positively, we cleave to the teaching of Scripture. Paul warned, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3–4).
Today, we have theology derived from our human passions; it is the theology that agrees with the human heart and its ungodly desires. It is the theology that encourages us to think that God does not challenge our lifestyle; He/she/it approves of everything we do.
Q: In a sermon years ago, you made the statement, “A drop of Satan’s rebellion has fallen on every human heart.” If this is true for all of us, what can we do to combat this in our personal lives and the wider culture?
A: We must warn that technology, political polarization, increased outrage, enflamed racism, and years of false teaching make us all more susceptible to “think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think” as Paul put it (see Romans 12:3).
How do we combat our own unacknowledged narcissism? Through the Word of God and accepting the difficult circumstances of life that remind us we are not “the captain of our fate and the captain of our soul.” We all fight self-centered thoughts every day in our marriages and relationships. God keeps breaking us, pruning us, and in a hundred ways, reminding us that He is God and we are not. As Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ…” (Galatians 2:20).
At death, self-worship comes to an inglorious end and only the worship of the true and living God matters.
[i] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, May 10, 1983, acceptance speech for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, https://www.templetonprize.org/laureate-sub/solzhenitsyn-acceptance-speech/.